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DENVER (AP) A Republican appeals judge appointed by President George H.W. Bush becomes the first federal judge to write an opinion against gay marriage in a year.

Before Wednesday's ruling in a case involved Utah's gay marriage ban, 16 straight judges had sided with gay marriage advocates. The majority of the three-judge panel also agreed with gay rights attorneys who argued states cannot ban same-sex marriages.

But Judge Paul Kelly issued a dissent. He said courts should not force states to permit gay marriages. He becomes the first judge to side with gay marriage critics since the U.S. Supreme Court last year issued a major gay rights ruling.

Lawyers and friends say Kelly is conservative but no ideologue. But he is unafraid to take unpopular stands.